A 42 Charter School staff member welcomes a student to the first day of in-person class six months after the pandemic shuttered schools.

NOLA Public Schools is tracking 41 “active” COVID-19 cases among students and school staff, 24 of which were newly reported in the last week, and 112 people are quarantining, according to a district spokeswoman. Those are all decreases from last week’s update, which reported 62 active cases, 34 new cases and 205 quarantines. 

This week’s update comes in the midst of a districtwide suspension of in-person classes.

It’s likely that many, if not most, of the current active cases were not transmitted in school buildings or during school activities. Schools have largely remained closed to in-person learning since the district abruptly closed campuses early this month — the same day students returned from winter break, though it’s unclear how many staff members have continued working in school buildings during the closure. After the holidays, the city’s test positivity rate was hovering around 10 percent and the new cases per day average peaked at 266 — both outside the metrics the district outlined for closure in the fall. 

The third factor the district evaluates to make campus closure decisions is testing availability. While that has remained largely steady throughout the city, a school-based testing program hit a snag last week. 

The district announced Friday it was suspending the new mobile COVID-19 testing program while the Louisiana Department of Health reviews the “effectiveness” of the test it was using. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about COVID-19 tests provided by Curative, Inc. — provided to the mobile sites through a partnership with the Louisiana Department of Health — saying there was a risk of false negatives with the tests.  

New Orleans’ average new daily case count and test positivity rate have dropped over the last two weeks, but the city remains in a modified phase one reopening plan through at least the end of this week. Mayor LaToya Cantrell is likely to announce whether that will change before Friday. 

Some schools have opened classrooms to small groups of young students and/or those with special education needs. The district has tried to prioritize in-person learning throughout the pandemic. 

The district does not release a cumulative count of cases connected to schools, but based on what the district has released, the case count over the its 14 weekly reports appears to be 437 cases: 12 cases in week one, four new cases in week two, 11 new cases in week three, nine in week four, six in week five, 12 in week six, 45 in week seven, 81 over weeks eight and nine, 60 in week ten and 46 in week 11. In its 12th report, which came three weeks after the 11th, the district reported 93 new cases. Last week, the district reported 34 new cases and this week it reported 24 new cases.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...